Monday, March 30, 2009


The Auburn Men's Swimming Team won its eighth national championship in the past thirteen seasons last weekend. Please note, that's "won," not "claimed." Predictably, and shamefully, the media in Alabama scarcely noticed.

No such disregard here. The team that David Marsh built and Richard Quick has carried on is easily the most successful in state history, and one of the most remarkable dynasties in the history of college sports. Competitive swimming draws from a tiny and ever-diminishing pool of talent (no pun intended), and the ability of Marsh and Quick to recruit and coach to this level of dominance for over a decade is flat-out astonishing.

It's even more surprising when you compare the resources at Auburn compared to AU's competitors in the sport, notably Stanford and Texas, the latter of which is probably the richest state school in the nation. Texas spends in excess of $100 million a year on athletics. Stanford isn't exactly poor, either, with an annual athletic budget in the $75 million range.

And little old Auburn, with a sub-$50 million budget and an athletic department that treats the swim team like a redheaded stepchild, just keeps on knocking them out, year after year. Maybe best of all, they do so in an arena where no sportswriter gets a vote, and where the only contribution of computers is in tallying the points.

That's what a real championship looks like, and Auburn has got them in spades.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

He's Back

Tony Barnhart, having taken a buyout last year to become a free agent, is still blogging for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's website. Barnhart came back from his winter hiatus this week, check the blog at its new address (or just click here).

Monday, March 09, 2009

Like They Say At Instapundit...

Comedy writer Jerry Perisho, after the University of Alabama football team admitted to NCAA violations involving players and textbooks: "This marks the first time Alabama football players have ever been linked in any way to college textbooks.''

You Gotta Be Kidding Me

File this one in the, "Things Better Left Behind In The 80's" department, but some idiot is actually trying to revive the USFL.

I went to one Birmingham Stallions game. It was against the Jersey team that had Doug Flutie and Herschel Walker on the roster. It remains the single most boring football game I've ever attended--and that includes A-Day games.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Preliminary Letter Of Inquiry at Alabama

The mid-2007 "Textbookgate" story at Alabama has been considered old news since five UAT players were suspended for the second half of that season and eventually reinstated just in time for that year's Auburn game. The story broke open again around 11AM today, when Cecil Hurt of the Tuscaloosa News reported online,
Representatives of the University of Alabama met with the NCAA Committee on Infractions last month to address allegations concerning the textbook violations which sidelined five football players in the 2007 season, The News has learned.

The meeting took place in San Diego on February 20, 2009. The two specific NCAA allegations, which were sent in a letter to UA President Dr. Robert Witt, last May, state that an unspecified number of UA student-athletes obtained impermissible textbooks and supplies beginning in “at least the 2005-06 academic year and continuing through the fall of 2007.” Furthermore, the letter alleges that “the scope and nature of the allegations” demonstrate a "failure to monitor the student-athlete textbook distribution system."

Along with Hurt's story, a sidebar has been posted containing pertinent documents, most notably including this Preliminary Letter Of Inquiry (labeled as a "Notice of allegations"; per ESPN, the two names are interchangable in NCAA parlance). The existence of this letter, dated May 8, 2008, has been successfully kept under wraps by UAT until today.

Among other things, the mildly-redacted PLOI charges UAT with Failure To Monitor (page 6), which is basically the second most serious charge in the NCAA rulebook, behind the dreaded Failure Of Institutional Control.

Contrary to everything you've read in the media to date, the NCAA considers this is a major violations case (page 4). According to the letter, UAT has requested and been denied summary disposition (top of page 3).

In short, this story is much more serious than the UAT administration, athletic department, and the media in Alabama have ever let on.

UPDATE: Here's something I missed when first reading over the NCAA letter. From page 6, detailing the first of two allegations, in this case a potential violation of Bylaw
It is alleged that beginning at least in the 2005-06 academic year and continuing through the fall of 2007, the institution's textbook distribution system allowed [section redacted] different student athletes to obtain impermissible textbooks and supplies, with a total value of [redacted].

This is possibly the most significant section of the entire PLOI, since it places the violations within the five-year Repeat Offender window. Alabama's last bout of NCAA probation began on February 1, 2002, and lasted through February 1 of 2007. Any violations during calendar 2006 would fall within the repeat offender window. This would make Alabama a three-time repeat offender, as the Albert Means probation was itself a repeat-offender case.